Social Media and the Fourth Wave of Feminism

Despite its common use today, the word feminism is still met with confusion and disdain. Many men and women confuse feminist stereotypes with the movement’s goals, forming negative associations with the word. But what is a feminist? And how is feminism seen today? At its core, feminism is about equality for the sexes and the success of both women and men. Today, feminism is most prominently seen on various social media platforms. Social media has helped to fully bring feminism into mainstream culture, creating a shift in society’s perception of the movement. Recently, feminist ideas have been featured in successful advertisements for companies such as Dove, Verizon, and Always. This widespread acceptance of feminist ideals is largely attributable to the power of social media.

Feminism: A Little History

Traditionally, feminism is broken into waves based on time period and ideology. The First Wave, from approximately 1840-1920, developed around the desire for women’s suffrage and equal rights of citizenship. This goal developed from female involvement in the abolition movement, after which women recognized the rights they were being denied. While campaigning for suffrage, early feminists also made remarkable progress for women’s rights by promoting dress reform and birth control, as well as earning women the right to own property, get divorced, pursue higher education, maintain their own income and inheritance, and retain custody of their children following divorce. Following the legalization of women’s suffrage in America in 1920, the women’s movement retained its importance but became more understated. This changed around 1960 with the arrival of the Second Wave of feminism.

By 1960, the Civil Rights Movement was sweeping the United States with incredible force. As young people began to protest for racial equality, women, as in the early 1900s, realized the inequality of their own situation. Instead of suffrage, these Second Wave feminists sought access to traditionally male domains to which they had been denied. This pursuit did not intend to usurp men, but to break “down gender stereotypes, thus emphasizing that feminism was of importance to men as well as to women” (psa.ac.uk). Feminists emphasized their position by coining “the phrase ‘the personal is political’ as a means of highlighting the impact of sexism and  patriarchy on every aspect of women’s lives” (psa.ac.uk). This made the movement more relevant, and in response women developed a vocabulary to address common injustices, including the terms date rape and domestic abuse. The feminists’ protests and lobbying, though sometimes radical, earned women greater reproductive rights, protection from workplace discrimination, and the right to equal pay, at least in theory. Despite the wide cultural changes that resulted from the Second Wave, the movement was flawed and harshly criticized. Women within the movement too often considered women to be a homogenous group and did not consider the facets included, such as black women, Latinas, women with disabilities, and lesbians and bisexuals, among others. These minority groups felt sidelined and began critiquing the movement from within, causing tension and divisive splits over feminist theories. By the end of the 1980s, the feminist movement was in a difficult position. Young women of the 1990s and early 2000s sought to address these issues in what is known as the Third Wave of feminism.

The Third Wave represented a monumental shift in the way women approached feminism and the way feminism was shared. This shift was largely influenced by the overall cultural shift toward individualism. By focusing on a woman’s personal struggles, the Third Wave “rejected the idea of a shared political priority list or even a set of issues one must espouse to be feminist” (feminist.com). This individualistic nature allowed for diverse interests to gain widespread attention, including the topics of queer theory, gender and sexuality spectrums, and sex positivity. Feminism’s individualism also made the movement portable- “you didn’t have to go to a meeting to be a feminist; you could bring feminism into any room you entered” (feminist.com). This portability allowed feminism to easily transition into the digital age.

Today, the Fourth Wave of feminism is “characterized by its diversity of purpose” and “…-its reliance on the Internet.” By 2008, “…the Internet had facilitated the creation of a global community of feminists…” in a way that was previously impossible. Without the Internet and social media, the progression of the newest wave of feminism would have been slowed, if possible at all.

Social Media:

            At the dawn of social media, online forums were intended for causal connections. Over time, Facebook and Twitter, as well as other prominent social media platforms, have expanded beyond this original intent and have become staples of 21st century activism. Though many were surprised by this development, it is understandable given that the term ‘platform’ brings to mind the sharing of ideas and the promotion of a cause. Following this realization, many social movements took to social media, including feminism.

 Today, 74 percent of adults in America use the internet and 76 percent of women online utilize social mediaFeminists utilize social media’s person to person model to connect with like-minded women across geographic and socioeconomic boundaries. In an interview with The Observer, prominent feminist and global director of Equality Now, Yasmeen Hassan, stated, “…the internet is opening up channels between women in different countries, and women who might be isolated in their communities….” This open communication allows for improved representation of “often ignored voices” (now.org). Contemporary feminism seeks to move away from the white, middle-class demographic to include all races, sexual orientations and gender identities, and socioeconomic classes.

By diversifying the backgrounds of the women involved, feminists are also diversifying the messages being presented. Feminism no longer has a set agenda, but appeals to the individual struggles of all women and unites them through similar experience. In an article for the HuffingtonPost, Victoria Sadler summed up this idea, stating, “Prior to the era of social media, not only did the forums not exist for these ideas to be fully identified and discussed, but instead women were dictated to about what their issues were…Now with social media, women as a whole aren’t responding to articles in the media, they are creating the news for themselves by shining a light on the breadth of issues that they face.”

Sharing these personal experiences has become easier in the digital age. Prior to the internet, feminists spread ideas through print publications, protest rallies, and gatherings. For women without means to attend such events or in areas without access to feminist publications, information and female solidarity were lacking. Though not all women have access to the Internet today, the number who do is steadily increasing. Once connected to the Internet and social media, these women are able to share topics of interest through either public sharing or direct sharing to specific individuals. ‘Sharing’ is one of the most popular methods of promoting information because it has a viral effect, going from “person to person through connection.” This viral web of information is attention grabbing and is an effective way for feminists to quickly disseminate material to a widespread audience. Another popular method for organizing and spreading information is the hashtag. Hashtags are used on sites such as Twitter and Facebook to organize information under specific topics, thus allowing users to track trends and the usage of certain hashtags. Feminists assign hashtags to certain initiatives within the movement or issues they would like to highlight, allowing women around the world to easily follow posts associated with the movement. This makes it possible for women to remain up to date on feminist happenings, even when the movement is not covered by the mainstream news.

Use across Cultures:

Despite the interconnectedness promoted by social media use, feminists across the world utilize social media for a diverse range of purposes.

In Western countries, prominently the United States, feminists use social media to address issues that are subtly ingrained in our society. A main issue addressed by social media in the U.S. is violence and harassment against women. This issue has received prominent coverage within the last year, especially following the Elliot Rodger shootings in Isla Vista, California in May 2014. Rodger, driven by a misogynistic worldview and a desire for revenge against women, killed six people and wounded multiple others before taking his own life. The day after the shootings, May 24th, the hashtag #YesAllWomen surface online. Within twenty-four hours, the hashtag was being used 61,500 times per hour at the peak of its popularity. #YesAllWomen used the Isla Vista tragedy to illustrate that misogyny and violence against women continues to exist.  Furthermore, the hashtag created a forum for open conversation about women’s experiences with harassment and male sexual entitlement. While feminist issues in the United States are more nuanced, they are often very black and white around the world.

In the Middle East, women are using social media to assert their rights in the face of continuing discrimination. Traditionally shying away from the pressure of public forums, women in the Middle East are flocking to social media to assert themselves. Women in Turkey are a prominent example. According to the Political Studies Association of the U.K., women make up 72 percent of social media users in Turkey. This online dominance was useful in July 2014, when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, called for an end to women laughing in public. This statement was included in a speech that urged Turkish citizens to cease activities that were promoting a “moral regression” in Turkey. Immediately, women began posting photos of themselves smiling and laughing on social media in defiance of Arınç’s request. They accompanied the photos with the hashtags #kahkaha, #direnkahkaha, and #direnkadin, which translate to laughter, “Resist Laughter”, and “Resist Woman”, respectively. As a sign of solidarity with the women of Turkey, women around the world posted similar photos, including UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. Though this issue may seem trivial, infringement of the basic right to laugh publicly is a simple example of the oppression women in certain cultures face.

Criticisms:

Despite the good social media has done for the feminist movement, there are many critiques. A prominent criticism is that the online feminist community has become toxic. Like many social movements, there is misunderstanding and division between the movement’s supporters based on single issue interests, race, socioeconomic status, etc. Social media is making these divisions more defined and, in some cases, hostile. Critics state that online feminists quickly turn on one another for breaches of conduct, creating an atmosphere in which women are afraid to speak up out of fear of chastisement. This toxicity taints the whole movement, given that most of today’s feminist activism is being organized and promoted online.

Aside from the instances of bullying, other critics are concerned that minority groups are being underrepresented. As in the past, the majority of feminist attention is garnered by middle class, white women, despite the fact that minority issues comprise a significant portion of the feminist movement. This in turn leads to the problem of ‘privilege-checking’, in which people are reminded not to speak for others- especially people outside of the same demographic group. ‘Privilege-checking’ presents a problem because it has reached excessive heights, causing women to withhold their opinions instead of engaging in open dialogue and making honest progress.

These issues, along with others, have lead many online feminists to denounce the use of social media, stating that the feminist blogosphere is too much of an “insular, protective, brittle environment” for productive change to emerge (thenation.com).

Reflection:

After researching this topic, I have come to several conclusions. Firstly, despite its flaws, social media is an incredible asset to the feminist movement. The ability to share information and organize women across the world almost instantly is an invaluable tool, and one that should not be discredited. Though division exists within the movement and social media helps to exasperate those divisions, I believe that is more a fault of the social media system and less a flaw within the feminist movement. Online toxicity is not exclusive to feminism and never will be. To combat the negative atmosphere created by social media, it may be beneficial for feminists to seek a better balance between social media use and in-person efforts. By promoting in person relationships and gatherings, feminists can remove the impersonal nature of the Internet and humanize the movement. This would allow social media to remain a tool of the movement, instead of a representation of the movement in its entirety.

Secondly, I agree that the feminist movement is flawed and needs to become more inclusive. Divisions may always exist, but that does not meant that feminists cannot be understanding toward other points of view. This issue can be resolved and addressing it will ultimately make the movement stronger. Despite the flaws, I believe the contemporary feminist movement promotes relevant issues and continues to be an important part of society.

Feminism: A Photo History

1st wave 1  2nd wave 2

1st wave 22nd wave 1

    3rd wave     #yesallwomen      turkey

Works Cited

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2012/03/08/tweeting-for-justice-why-social-media-is-the-new-face-of-feminism/10030

http://now.org/blog/digifem2-social-media-and-feminism/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/01/activists-feminism-digital

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-power-of-yesallwomen

http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/baumgardner2011.html

http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/12/30/social-media-update-2013/

http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/goodwill-ambassadors/emma-watson

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201134111445686926.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/victoria-sadler/social-media-feminism_b_3981098.html

http://www.thenation.com/article/178140/feminisms-toxic-twitter-wars?page=0,3

http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/feminism-fourth-wave

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2014/0730/Why-women-in-Turkey-are-laughing-at-Deputy-PM-s-advice

http://womenshistory.answers.com/feminism/accomplishments-of-second-wave-feminism

http://mashable.com/2014/05/26/yesallwomen-hashtag/

 

 

Freedom of Expression: America v. The World

Fran O’Steen

Unfortunately my paper wouldn’t upload as a document, so here it is! I’ve also linked a really interesting NY Times compilation of cases across the world that deal with press freedom issues… not all of them pertain to my paper, but they’re really interesting reads!

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/f/freedom_of_the_press/index.html

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: AMERICA VS. THE WORLD

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AROUND THE WORLD

The right to express opinion and share current events is something that is more varied globally than one might expect. While in our own country we are given an immense amount of opportunity to discover and share news – in spite of the subject matter having possible negative repercussions – several other civilizations around the world do not share American ideals for liberty. Places in the Middle East, for example, take great strides to oppress those who make attempts to report on current events happening within the different countries’s borders. From the recent confiscation of newspapers to censor specific political articles in Egypt, to the imprisonment of American journalists in places like Iran, people who are fortunate enough to be citizens of democracies can clearly note to stark contrast between the freedoms we are provides with and the oppression experienced by others across the globe. One topic that is infinitely more difficult to pinpoint, however, is the division of freedoms between different democracies. On the surface, most countries that establish freedom of expression as a human right seem to be one and the same. A deeper look, on the other hand, reveals that although many countries share the basic idea of maintaining a free state, many differ and contrast with American notions of free expression.

AMERICAN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: A BRIEF HISTORY

Americans tend to pride themselves on the amount of liberty and opportunity our country provides for us, and in many cases we have good reason to do so. One of the first steps the founding fathers took towards setting American standards for freedom apart was to create a Constitution that outlines the fundamental rights that we have as human beings. While the whole of the constitution is important to Americans in different capacities, The First Amendment covers the simple basics that apply to every day life. James Madison made clear the thought process behind the statues of the first amendment, stating that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. While it includes the specification of free reign in the areas of petition, assembly, religion, and speech, freedom of the press stands out in particular to journalists and media personnel alike.

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At a glance, the concept of freedom of the press as defined by the constitution is that the first amendment “protects rights of people to express themselves through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint, or prosecution by the government”. Many historical cases since the formation of the Constitution have challenged this core ideal and have brought the original statute to light. The US Supreme Court case of Near v. Minnesota has been considered a milestone occurrence since it took place in 1931. The issue revolved around the exposure of political corruption in the city of Minneapolis.

The_Saturday_Press

The Saturday Press newspaper editors, Jay Near and Howard Guilford, were taken to court by Governor Olson for “malicious” and “scandalous” publications against himself and other officials. His plea for censorship of the paper lead the Supreme Court to declare that censorship, except in very rare cases, is unconstitutional and is an infringement on the liberty of the press. Other major court cases, such as Branzburg v. Hayes which described freedom of the press as “a fundamental personal right”; or New York Times Co. v. Sullivan which protected journalists from libel laws, are only a few of the many cases that have been brought to the attention of the courts over the matter of free expression. These and many other occurrences dealing with the specific constitutional right have occurred throughout our history and are still prevalent today, and can be compared and contrasted with other countries’ set of freedoms around the globe.

AMERICAN FREEDOMS VS. OTHER DEMOCRACIES

As stated earlier in an earlier passage, the line between America and other Western civilizations is not as clearly defined as the one that can be drawn for countries that openly reject ideas of complete freedom. One of the countries that borders our own in the freedom of expression area also borders us geographically- Canada is a nation that embodies democracy, but enforces certain differences. Canada’s historical background sheds light on their constitution, which is said to be drawn in parts from the Magna Carta and is one of the oldest in the world.

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This document that they uphold as an enormous part of their government shares many similarities with our own- they include a “Bill of Rights” of sorts and cover many of the topics that our founding fathers deemed significant enough to include in our own constitution. This fact makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint the differences between the two views, but certain cases shed light on the distinctions between the two countries’ principles. One of the key differences between American and Canadian freedom of expression is in the way each country treats the exposure and coverage of criminal cases. While Americans have the right to freely publish details and names of the accused, Canadian law has the ability step in and prevent such action from taking place. The protection of those convicted is evident in one of the most recent cases that deals with a former Afghani soldier named Omar Khadr, who is being held in a Canadian prison for killing American soldiers in a war zone many years before his capture. Several reporters who have tried to interview him and take into account his side of the story have been prevented from doing so by the Canadian government. This “rebuff to press freedoms and the publics’ right to know” is a prime example of the way different democracies respond to censorship. In America, names of accused or convicted are part of the public domain, and interviews similar to the one stated above are allowed as protected by the first amendment. In Canada, youth are also protected from being exposed to the media for criminal activity due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, whereas in America many times those aspects are not kept private. Other differences include the prevention of publishing writing that encourage “hateful statements”, typically in there areas of race, gender, and sexuality. These seemingly small details actually create major differences between the two countries’ views on what is okay to be disseminated and what should be kept from the public.

Another primary democratic country that contrasts with American press is the United Kingdom. According to the New York Times,“Britain has a long tradition of free, inquisitive press, but unlike the United States, Britain has no constitutional guarantee of press freedom.” This standard that is held by the country reflects greatly in the way that they handle certain issues in media and reporting, and the enormous issue that currently embodies this policy revolves around the Edward Snowden/leaked NSA documents case. The Guardian, a prominent newspaper, took the liberty to print several articles that covered the Snowden case, leakage of the documents, and the NSA’s invasion of citizens privacy. The issue involved both American and British governments, whose intelligence agencies overlap frequently. While Congress has taken strides to implement protection against snooping, the British Parliament has approached the issue from a different angle and attacked the Guardian’s recent publications instead. The Times’s coverage of the issue in the UK does an incredible job of depicting the amount of fire British journalists are currently under, as well as detail how truly fragile British press freedom is at this time. Members of British Parliament are currently using their power as officials to heavily scrutinize writers for the Guardian, demand the unveiling of sources, and allow Scotland Yard to pursue the case against the Guardian as a criminal investigation. The stark contrast between the two affected countries reactions- America going after the intelligence agencies who have committed the crime, Britain going after the journalists who uncovered it- is the perfect example of how vastly our two countries differ in the amount of value they place on true freedom of expression.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Freedom of the press, at a glance, may not seem like something that can truly effect the state of the nation or even the world. Many people tend to look at countries that have democracy and write it of as “good enough” just because they allow MOST things to be reported or published. The small details, however, prove to be the most key when it comes to fundamental freedoms of human beings. The argument could be made that acts such that Canada have that protect the privacy of criminals are more ethical on a certain front, or that punishment for hateful journalism is a positive step towards social harmony, the regulation of any sort of journalism has been proven to do more harm than good. While some topics seem unnecessary and fall under the “just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should” argument, journalists across the country have proposed ethical codes for journalists to keep in mind while reporting. While certain topics seem too crude or inappropriate to share, this does not mean that they aren’t worthy of being available to the people. Government regulation of journalism, though possibly started with ethical intentions, more often that not leads to the prosecution of writers for chronicling “the ugly truth.” Information of all kinds should be accessible and allowed in the public domain, otherwise people across the world have less power over their own lives and decisions. Incidents like the Snowden/Guardian case reveal a side of the world that, although unpleasant, is necessary to be printed in order to push our world forward in a better direction. This fundamental freedom is governed differently from country to country and not one of them does it perfectly. It appears to me, however, that the best approach is that of the United States: to let people speak and write as they wish, so as to give citizens of this country the most power and decision over their own futures as possible.

A Paradoxical Relationship: Punk Rock and the Media

A Paradoxical Relationship:

Punk Rock and the Media

By: Daniel Anton

tomandtravis

“I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation.” This was the chorus screamed by Joan Jett in 1980 while her band, The Blackhearts, backed her mezzo-soprano voice. In one line, Jett summed up just about everything punk rock stands for and its disregard for positive publicity. However, even though punk rock preaches rejection of the media, it has needed that very same media to survive and flourish as a musical genre.

(Many punk rock acts will be mentioned in this essay, and a very useful interactive punk rock timeline appears here).

The 1960s are not often thought of musically as the breeding ground of punk rock music, but that is exactly what it was. While bands like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones were thriving on media exposure and using it to their full advantage, punks rejected this commercialized notion and bands sprang up accordingly. The first of these bands was The Sonics, which formed in 1960 and though a far cry from modern punk, paved the way with their simple chord progressions and loud, fast playing style. Many musicians today, like Jack White, do not believe The Sonics get the proper recognition they deserve. This lack of recognition can be attributed to the lack of media exposure; the same media entertainers essentially need to continue their careers. Ironically though, on The Sonics’ website, there is an entire section titled “Media,” which displays the band’s twitter, YouTube videos, and various other announcements and links. Has anyone ever really heard of The Sonics though? Probably not unless you happen to be very knowledgeable in the roots of punk.

Ultimately, it can be argued that the relative anonymity of punk rock’s founding father was due to the choice of The Sonics themselves to take on a largely DIY (do it yourself) work ethic. This is a common, recurring theme in punk rock music. It is the interesting paradox that surrounds the genre: how can an entire genre be built on rejecting the media but then need the media for exposure to make a living?

This tricky question was more fully answered with the formation of The Velvet Underground four years later in 1964. The Velvet Underground is a more widely known name largely due to the fact that they were the first punk band to be featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. In this 1970 article, the magazine reviews the band’s fourth album, Loaded. Rolling Stone did not bother to review the band’s first three albums, as they were not yet large enough to be noticed by a big-time publication. The method the Velvet Underground used to garner the attention for their first three albums set the precedent for punk rock bands to follow. This method was a true DIY ethic rooted in underground (no pun intended) success and genuine care for fans. The band experienced little commercial success while active—aside from brief moments in the spotlight like the Rolling Stone review—but it had a profound effect on not just punk but all music to come. English composer Brian Eno put it best when he said, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band,” in reference to the fact that the first Velvet Underground album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, sold only 30,000 copies.

The Sonics and The Velvet Underground were considered protopunk bands which means that while their music may not have been too closely related to what we think of as punk today, it contained elements that later punk musicians built off. Both bands were received very quietly by the media and made little splash. The first protopunk band to really attract media attention was The Stooges, also known as Iggy and The Stooges. Fueled by their wild lead singer, Iggy Pop (commonly referred to as the “Godfather of Punk Rock”), The Stooges began to create media buzz. Pop was known for crazy stage antics like cutting his body with glass, smearing peanut butter all over his chest, and diving into the crowd. Rolling Stone Magazine credits Iggy Pop with inventing stage diving and crowd surfing. This iconic image taken at a Cincinnati show in 1970 demonstrates Iggy Pop’s total commitment to showmanship and the media caught on.

iggypop

By the mid 1970s, punk rock began to become the genre most of us know today. In 1974, the Ramones were formed after being heavily influenced by The Stooges, and the media began to take notice. The band’s iconic logo, which was based on the seal of the President of the United States, became widely distributed through the use of advertisement. The logo was well received and was featured on everything from T-shirts to tattoos. Arturo Vega, who was in charge of marketing for the band, is credited with designing the logo and creating a brand for the Ramones in the media department. The ironic point here is of course the fact that a punk band, which stands for DIY, has a director of marketing. Although many people have labeled the Ramones as sellouts due to the fact that they signed with a major record label and became heavily commercialized, it was a necessary step for the genre of punk to reach the mainstream.

Punk rock in the 1980s rode the wave of success started by 70s bands like The Ramones, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols. It became more and more marketable through the likes of bands like The Talking Heads and The Misfits, but struggled to find the success of the earlier bands. Then in the year 1994, punk rock once again entered the mainstream, and this time it blasted into it with the release of Green Day’s Dookie. Dookie is considered by many to be a punk rock masterpiece. In fact the Miami New Times credits it with “single-handedly bringing punk rock back aboveground.” The album went on to sell over 20 million copies and the media began to embrace punk rock again. The New York Times reviewed the album saying, “Punk turns into pop in fast, funny, catchy, high-powered songs about whining and channel-surfing; apathy has rarely sounded so passionate.” The massive media exposure once again caused many people to claim punk rock sold out and became too commercialized. These criticisms would only continue with an up-and-coming band from San Diego, California known as blink-182 (the band has expressed their dislike for a capital “B”).

nakedblink

The above picture is one of blink-182 who rose to fame and shocked the media with their blatant displays of public nudity, excessive swearing, and sex jokes involving incest. The media generally responded negatively to these antics with Steven Wells of British magazine, NME, telling them to “fuck right off then.” However, as it is often said, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and blink-182 used their shock value to ride all the way to 2005 before breaking up (after selling over 35 million albums and playing in stadiums around the world).

Punk purists today will say the genre is dead, and has been dead since the Sex Pistols. They will say that the music you hear today that is labeled as punk is commercialized, formulaic rubbish. Most punk rockers will denounce Green Day as a has-been band and a giant sellout, especially after the 2010 release of a Broadway musical rendition of their album American Idiot. Successful modern punk bands like Green Day have touched every aspect of media from personal to mass and have used the media to their advantage to further their careers. As much as it wants to refuse this truth, punk rock, just like most things, lives and dies by the media. Punk today is very much not dead, rather it has evolved into a new genre that recognizes the necessity of branding, marketing, and the media to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced world.

ISIS Media Campaign

The Background:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as ISIS, has been prevalent in media since 2011, when President Obama ordered that troops be removed from Iraq. However, the group originated in 1999 as one of the many Jihadist groups that arose to follow Al Qaeda. This group joined forces with several other Jihad groups, declaring itself a self-declared caliphate in late 2006. It originated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Libya, but is now more commonly referred to as the Islamic State. Though the success of the group can be attributed to many variables, including their location and economic wealth, what makes this group unique is its extremely successful media campaign. In this project I will analyze the different angles of this campaign in relation to their overall success in the recruitment of ISIS’s members. Though I am personally against ISIS and their initiatives, I will attempt to focus my analysis on the factual effectiveness of the campaign, placing my own opinions aside. ISIS’ recruitment campaign spreads to many different type of media, including videos, a magazine, a Facebook fan page, and several different twitter accounts. I will focus on its most effective media campaign: Twitter, and reflect on the still-existing effectiveness of one of its least popular attempts: the magazine.

The Magazine: IS Report

The ISIS Report is a magazine clearly directed toward westerners, as most of its contents are written in English. It states its intent very clearly when describing itself as “Propagating.” This propaganda is effective in its appeal, because most of the issue focuses on the religious ideals of the state:

“Spreading Islamic knowledge, correcting the people’s understanding of the religion, and clarifying the truth are all among the most important goals of the Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam (Syria). For this reason, the scholars and du’aat of the Islamic State have made a concerted effort to clarify the methodology of truth, which the prophet Muhammad came with. They did so by holding educational seminars, opening institutes for Islamic studies, and running da’wah tents. All this in order to clarify the fundamental truth on account of which the heavens and the earth were established, for which the Messengers were sent, and which many men have fought to establish, proving truthful to their covenant with Allah. This fundamental truth is Tawheed – worshipping none but Allah, may he be glorified…”

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This article is the opening message of this issue, which is the premier issue for the magazine. The emphasis on the religious efforts of ISIS is an intelligent tactic to give the group a positive connotation initially. For the westerner completely new to the ideals of ISIS, opening its message in this way forces the reader to keep and open mind. Further, though manipulative, the purpose described in this passage is completely opinionated and therefore cannot be effectively fact-checked. Rather than turn away curious readers with the truth about the actions of ISIS, the group was left with one of two options. They could be honest and upfront about the actions, detailing the mass-killings and beheadings. They could lie, and attempt to uphold a non-violent front, despite the open media regarding their acts of violence. Both methods have potential negative effects. To be honest about the violence ISIS used to promote its agenda would only attract seasoned terrorists, not the American and European target audience it desires. To completely lie about the actions of ISIS would be difficult albeit ineffective with the lack of censorship in modern-day media. With these two options, success for ISIS recruitment looked ominous. In assessing the barriers ISIS was forced to push past in order to achieve positive reception by westerners, ISIS was quite ingenious in how they moved forward. This magazine clearly portrays the timeline of their methodology. First, a focus on religion gives a sense of immunity to the group. Second, having total control of their media outlets allowed the group to reveal only the parts of the organization that they so chose. As the magazine progresses, on to the 3rd and 4th editions, ISIS conditions its audience to slowly but surely view and accept the violence they use to promote their message.

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The Tweets:

ISIS’s twitter activity is arguably its most successful media campaign. The initial release of the beheadings, though shocking, established the famous reputation of ISIS as a ruthless and powerful terrorist organization. Though crass, from a strictly public relations standpoint, these videos were extremely effective in drawing attention to the organization. The videos immediately became popular, and spurred such trending hash-tags such as #ISIL or #beheadings. Online traffic increased so drastically on twitter, with re-tweets by both horrified and intrigued Americans, that twitter CEO Dick Costolo quickly reacted to the beheadings, forcefully removing them from the website in twitter’s first act of user editing. (ISIS militants immediately followed up with death threats to the CEO) The videos were impressively shot, showing the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The propagandists involved in creating the videos and images did so clearly to enlist a new tactic as far as recruiting members: graphic violence. This tactic proved effective as the hashtag still exists as trending on twitter.  It has also spurred some radical fan followings, with many European and American twitters created in dedication to ISIS. The group also advanced a new intended outcome for their campaign: the goal of gaining American involvement. As I stated before, ISIS was founded in 1999, but U.S. retaliation was not openly considered until the United States Administration was harassed by the outcry of horrified Americans. Less than a month after ISIS popularity on Twitter, President Obama announced official steps to fight the terrorist organization. His plan involved steps so drastic as to begin airstrikes in Syria. The beheading videos and imagery clearly catalyzed U.S. involvement against ISIS. Beyond the videos, ISIS has also shown its technologically savvy propagandizing by creating its own app for twitter.

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Though Twitter warns against the app as being “potentially harming,” once followed, the app updates the user as to the current events, tweets, hashtags, and press releases of the group. They effectively bundled all of their social media outlets and made them available through twitter, which has gained ISIS the most attention.

United States Retaliation:

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The United States has been particularly disappointing in their retaliation toward ISIS’ media efforts. Their campaign “Think Again Turn Away,” has produced a Twitter and a Facebook page in efforts to deflect the damage done by ISIS social media. The campaign is run by the United States Department of State, and seems to attempt to level with the common twitter demographic; the millennial generation. The twitter consists mostly of re-tweets, many of the lacking in professionalism and grammar. I’ve attached some of the least effective tweets below. The numbers reflect the failure of this initiative. On Twitter, the “Think Again Turn Away” page has only 13,000 followers, and the Facebook page has around 8,500. The Facebook page displays outdated graphics and shared news articles that consist of anti-ISIS commentary. The initiative began in 2011, when ISIS efforts became a concern for national security. However, the “Think Again Turn Away” initiative still continues its efforts to demean ISIS. Unfortunately, the sarcastic nature of the group, especially in its YouTube videos and tweets, has been potentially more harmful to U.S. efforts, causing some to view the initiative as tactless and juvenile.

Exactly how effective was ISIS’ media campaign, and why?

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ISIS has gained a predicted 3,000 followers from Europe alone. Whether or not the rise in followers can be completely attributed to the ISIS media campaign is debatable. When asked how social media affected ISIS recruitment, University of Utah Professor Peter von Sivers, an expert in the behavioral patterns of terrorist organizations, responded with resolve that the support would’ve existed with or without the media. It’s certainly supported through evidence that ISIS’ power comes from many other methods, especially their involvement in the oil industry. Still, the media campaign was effectively and efficiently executed, and drew worldwide attention. ISIS calls to attract diverse types, such as “engineers, we need doctors, …professionals In analyzing the psychology used to draw people to join terrorist organizations, University of Massachusetts Psychologist John Hogan describes the success of ISIS:

“Very often we see radicals decide they want to become a terrorist turn away at the last-minute, but the message hit the nail on the head, which is to say there is a road for everyone. It makes radicalization and recruitment much easier. It is an equal opportunity organization. It has everything from the sadistic psychopath to the humanitarian to the idealistic driven.”

The organization, though one I personally do not support, is a pristine axample of effective media usage in mass communication. Through expert tactics and utilization of modern digital media, this terrorist group has been able to sell its extremely undesirable products: mass murder and violence.

Carrying the Banner: Newsies and Its Significance

The Gilded Age in America was a time rife with internal corruption. Child labor, poor housing conditions and corrupt politicians ran rampant. In such an industrialized, corrupted place, it was common for people to advocate change, but never children. When the newsboys came together and went on strike for fair pay in 1899, it was a surprise for many.

Continue reading Carrying the Banner: Newsies and Its Significance